Making a case for Sam Gagner at $5M a year isn’t hard to do, but for the Oilers it’s more difficult to find a way to include him in their future at that number. Well beyond $5M? Almost impossible.
GAGNER HAS REAL VALUE TO EDMONTON
The case for Gagner making 5 large has been made ably at ON in recent days:
- Robin Brownlee: "I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that Gagner is a reasonable buy at $1 million less a season than Hall and Eberle just signed for. That means $5 million a season.Ka-ching. Pay the man."
- Jonathan Willis: "My view is that I’d be comfortable signing Gagner at five million per season over five years, but that I’d be calling Grabovski’s agent just in case."
I’d also draw your attention to Tyler Dellow’s summary of the situation (here) and his conclusion "deferring this issue by letting the arbitrator deal with it doesn’t seem likely to me to produce a better result. Make a longer term bet on him now seems like a reasonably smart bet to make to me."
BRIDGING THE GAP
The Oilers have five ‘impact’ players who could reasonably be regarded as having superior futures to Gagner: they are Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz. Hall and Eberle are signed long term for $6M per year, and that’s probably the organizational ‘outer marker’ for contracts.
Assuming that the club signs Nuge and J Scultz long term for $5M+ (or near) in the next 12 months, and have Gagner come in around $5M as well, the Oilers will be looking at about $27-29M for their five best players when the Yakupov contract comes up for review. This assumes the Nuge is willing to sign for less than $6M, and that my friends is a large assumption.
The cap will go up next year, and if it hits $70M plus then the pressures will be eased; however, signing Sam Gagner long term with a no trade mean Craig MacTavish could box himself in if:
- he signs Gagner to a multi-year deal with a no trade clause for the free agent years
- the cap goes up, but does not sky rocket
- Gagner performs below his established level
These are legit concerns, and things MacT must measure as he readies to sign Sam Gagner.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think the Oilers call in forensics on this, pore over the numbers, and deliver a long term contract shy of $5.25M per year. Sam Gagner has been consistent and is entering his prime. Buying an uptick in performance is a good bet.